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redskins free agency plan: just say no

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Since the day he took over the Washington Redskins back in 1999 there are two absolute truths that we can say about owner Daniel Snyder.

First, he really wants to win. Like, really, really badly. We don’t think anyone can question that. Simply put, Snyder has never been afraid to outspend the competition in pursuit of this franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy.

The other thing we can say about him is that Snyder is absolutely addicted to star appeal. During his decade plus in charge, Snyder has never met a big name he couldn’t envision wearing the burgundy and gold.

We bring this up because Friday is the start of NFL free agency. And this year, like every other year, the biggest names available on the open market will once again be linked to the Redskins.

Free agents looking for a payday love hearing that Snyder’s plane is fueled up and ready to go. Agents dream of receiving a call from Redskins Park at 12:01 a.m. and hearing the following sentence, “Mr. Snyder would like to speak with you about one of your clients.” It’s the worst-kept secret in the NFL today. The Redskins owner has a wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket and, if you play your cards right, he’ll happily make it rain for you.

If you’ve ever been to the Pro Bowl or had a good game against the Redskins (cough*Antwan Randle El*cough) and are no longer wanted by your team, just bat your eyelashes in the general direction of Ashburn, Va., and you could be in line for a minimum deal of five years, $25 million. We would list a dozen or so examples of this, but honestly, we don’t want to crack open the liquor cabinet this early on a Tuesday morning.

So naturally there are reports that the Redskins have their sights set on top free agent prize, defensive end Julius Peppers. It’s no different than a year ago when the big-name player was Albert Haynesworth. If you’re a writer, just put out your Redskins-free agency template and fill in the blanks.

But here’s the thing – it’s not supposed to be this way anymore. The Redskins finally took steps to become a professionally-run organization when they let go of Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn in favor of Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan.

Everyone knows that the Redskins have been nothing more than a fantasy football team for a decade or so. But the Allen-Shanahan combo was supposed to kill that trend. No longer would Redskins fans have to settle for “Offseason championships,” followed by a sub-.500 season.

No, we were led to believe that we were now in good hands with folks who know how to win Super Bowls. Long-term vision was supposed to replace the “we’re just one player away” quick-fix mentality. These aren’t supposed to be men who fall for marquee names looking to cash in on what they’ve done, not what they’ll do next.

We hate to say it, but if there’s any truth to the rumors that the ‘Skins are hoping to land Peppers, then it’s safe to say that nothing has changed at Redskins Park. The names calling the shots might be different, but we’re ultimately in for more of the same once football season rolls around again.

It’s funny, the country, for the moment at least, cares about hockey again. Watching Ryan Miller and the rest of Team USA make their improbable Olympic run temporarily captivated the nation and had casual sports fans tuning in to see just how far those scrappy underdogs could go.

We bring Team USA up for good reason. Take a look at their roster. You won’t see an all-star team. You won’t find a collection of the biggest names. Instead, you’ll find players handpicked to play a very specific role.

They might not sell as many jerseys, but they’re each there for good reason. Each player is a piece to the puzzle. Other teams might have more talent or bigger names, but when everyone on Team USA works together in that specific system (a system, by the way, tailor-made to best utilize those players), they were truly capable of something special.

One other noteworthy aspect about Team USA, when they announced the 24 players they were taking to Vancouver, just five of them were over the age of 30.

Aging veterans like Mike Modano and Chris Chelios, who were once known as elite players, were left off the roster in favor of younger, hungrier players who might not have the name recognition, but were eager to prove they’re worthy of representing their country on the world’s biggest stage.

Now, let’s take that information and apply it to the Redskins. The coaching staff was willing to put any egos aside and put together a scheme that best utilized their players. Hmmm. Jim Zorn, Greg Blache, you hear that? We bet you two didn’t even know that was an option, did you?

Team USA’s general manager Brian Burke refused to play the name game, and instead targeted each player to fill a specific need. The Team USA gameplan also revolved around a youth movement, rather than building with players past their prime. You taking notes Bruce Allen?

There’s that old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Well, for better or worse, the book has been written on Daniel Snyder. He’s labeled as a hands-on owner who can’t help but meddle and overspend.

This weekend will give us our first chance to determine what to expect during the Shanahan-Allen era.

They can run off and court headliners like Julius Peppers in an effort to sell more jerseys or they can focus on the five other areas on the roster that are actually in need of attention. They can play another round of fantasy football or they can consider things like team chemistry.

They can continue to rebuild a struggling franchise from the ground up in hopes of returning the Redskins to relevance or they can fall victim to the same traps that have sabotaged any hopes of respectability since 1999.

Which path will they chose? No one knows for sure. That being said, we’ll learn a lot about the new regime this weekend.

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12 Responses

  1. This year presents a unique opportunity (with no cap) for the Redskins to jettison players with back-loaded contracts who are no longer bringing value, while outbidding anyone else for the best talent available they can use.

    In this regard, they should spare no expense.

  2. Pappas, you know I love you, but (as usual) you’re wrong.

    If this team was one or two players away, then sure – go for it. Go get Julius Peppers or Darren Sproles.

    But this is a 4-12 team. There are so many holes on this roster, it takes less time to name the positions of strength rather than the problem areas.

    Your two best offensive linemen – Casey Rabach and Derrick Dockery – aren’t in the top 10 or 15 at their respective positions. And they’re the best you’ve got.

    Why spend $40-50 million guaranteed on Peppers (especially with double-digit sack guys like Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter already here) when you need to completely overhaul your offensive line. And your running backs. And probably your secondary.

    The lack of a salary cap doesn’t equal unlimited funds. It also doesn’t give teams permission to ignore long-term planning. Develop a plan to turn the Redskins into a consistent winner – rather than a team who might make the playoffs once every couple of years.

  3. Put the drink down and read it again:

    “the best talent available they can use

    And you yourself point out the holes they have. Do you think a mere five picks in the NFL draft will fill them?

    SPARE NO EXPENSE!

  4. I’m with Pappas.

    Compared to other teams, there’s nothing to stop Snyder from spending since there’s no future cap to have to worry about. Salary spending is no longer a zero sum game. You can spend freely now without leaving less money for salaries at other positions now, and also in the future.

    The only drawbacks to playing fantasy football is making sure the team meshes well. And with Shannahan clearly running the ship, as opposed to Norv and Zorn only halfway in control, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

  5. I would have to agree with Papas if it is an uncap year you might want to take a chance on Pepper’s especially when your switching to the 3-4 I would rather have him at outside LB then Carter who failed in San Fran at playing the outside LB. Because more than likely the Cap will not return and I’m pretty sure they will write up the contracts as if the cap will be coming back.

  6. All I want for Christmas is an offensive line, a young stud running back, two decent receivers, one more corner, a safety, and a couple other minor players 😉

    Go get em Bruce.

  7. Pappas is on the right track, but I’m not sure Peppers is the answer. I think we should look at the uncapped year as a way for us to jettison (if not the players themselves) these oversized contracts & bonuses that we have been so fond of handing out like Halloween candy. Sit down with these players who have ridiculously big and/or back-loaded contracts & say, “Look, we’re gonna re-work your deal so you’re gonna get, say 50-75% of your full contract this coming season in both salary & bonuses.” This would allow us to do two things: Keep a player we might have had to let go for cap reasons later down the line, and free up TONS of money to reward worthy veterans and/or sign free agents to help fill needs.

    This would be a hit to Snyder’s wallet up front to be sure, but why not view the uncapped year as the perfect opportunity to clear out those gargantuan contracts we’ve been sweeping under the rug for years?

  8. Correct me if i’m wrong but shouldn’t the front office take into consideration that if an agreement is reached before the 2011 season there might be a cap once again (probably much higher than the current cap)? Which to me means outrageous spending in this uncapped year could still have huge side affects in the coming years plans to get free agents/ draft picks if we once again find ourselves at the top of our cap.

  9. There are holes to fill, and we have several years to fill them. If you think a Super Bowl roster can be built this offseason, I’ve got a flying unicorn I’d like to sell you.

    The best way to build a Super Bowl team is by drafting well and building around that core with free agents LATER. It takes time and patience, something I thought we all finally were on board with? When did that ship sail?

    Patience friends. Patience.

  10. We will win free agency again this year but this year we will do it by cornering the market on good quality backups and a couple key players. Spend whatever it takes to get the best backups you can (if they are better than what you have) Trade as many guys as you can and then draft youth for the 3-4 and Oline (since there isnt a lot out there in FA for oline).

    We will be no worse than 8-8 this year. Who wants to bet me?

  11. Good Point DC Landing Strip. I think the fanbase has been infected by how the last regime did businessm, and have lost touch with how good organizations are run. Besides if we want the new management to continue the same old way of making up a roster (not a team)why did we just have to have Vinny fired?

    I want to see this team built for a long sustained run at championship(s)not a quick flare of success and then back to the bottom.

    Once again “Patience friends. Patience.”

  12. Patience is fine and so much easier now that my sense of enthusiasm for the Skins has been numbed by the last decade. I’m still nurturing that ember of hope for future Redskin glory and I do see the beginnings of a measured, planned approach originating from Redskin Park now. I would like to see more evidence of what that plan might actually be, though. So far, all they have really done is manage the finances for an owner who has never lacked fiscal resources. The moves they have made make good sense in the long run for future cap considerations in whatever form that cap may take. So, Ok, another sign that there is a long term plan. Still, no real sense of what it is though. My primary fears right now are that the new regime will make choices that are eminently sensible and well regarded throughout the league but they don’t work out. I know I’m being paranoid here but consider the last decade. Just when you thought there were no other ways the Redskins could be screwed up, Murphy’s waiting to bite us on the ass. I’m a fan in the truest fanatical sense but that’s the way my mind runs when my thoughts turn to the Skins these last few years. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

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